Last week I got an e-mail from a guy asking me if the term "wolf pack" meant anything to me. I vaguely recognized the name at the bottom of the letter, and then it came back to me: It had been an inside joke from, of all places, driver's ed (something to do with not driving on the highway in close proximity to other cars). I was reunited with my driving-school pal last night at a show at the Gypsy Tea Room. Turns out he manages an alt-country band out of Arlington, Alamo Jet. It was the group's first show, and they brought the kind of earnest, Wilco-wannabe-tastic tunes that make college girls believe their boyfriends are about 50 times more sensitive than they are. They also brought a decent crowd.
I've spent enough weeknights out on the Dallas live music scene to know you shouldn't expect any kind of a crowd for a local show on a Tuesday. Which is why I was surprised to see the Tea Room relatively well populated with everyone from 15-year-old high-schoolers to somebody's suburban parents. Also on the bill: small-town locals Eaton Lake Tonics and Shurman, a bunch of aging pretty boys out of Los Angeles trying to ride the southern rock bandwagon as far as it'll take 'em. Cover was $10.
I don't see 50 or 75 people forking out $10 to see local critical faves the Tah-Dahs, the Theater Fire or Mazinga Phaser on a Tuesday. I just don't, and it scares me. But then again, I thought, maybe I'm in the Cavern-Double Wide-Darkside Lounge bubble. I forget that people need super-accessible, super-tuneful, super-safe rock and roll to bring them out of the suburbs and into Dallas clubs, which is what happened last night at the Tea Room. A bunch of people who don't spend happy hours bitching and moaning about the Dallas music scene came out and supported a part of the Dallas music scene most of us happy-hour bitchers pretend doesn't exist.
Is it time to accept the bands we may not worship, but that at the very least are bringing people out to buy drinks and pay cover? I'm thinking acts like Richardson-based Thief, who unabashedly cover Coldplay and David Gray while pulling decent crowds into Club Clearview on weekends. They're currently ranked in the top 25 acts on mtvU's "Best Music on Campus." It pains me to say it, but freaking Alligator Dave brings people out too. Sure, his fans are frat guys with extensive bong collections, but they're going to see live music at local venues nonetheless.
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I've been at the Observer for less than a year, but in that time I've seen Trees, Club Dada and the Double Wide shut down because of financial difficulties. It's starting to look to me like mediocrity is the key to keeping Dallas music alive. --Andrea Grimes